close

News WrapGet Handpicked Stories from our editors directly to your mailbox

Second major blackout leaves Venezuelans fearing power cuts will be the norm

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

Reuters Venezuela Mar 27, 2019, 08.31 PM (IST)

Vast portions of Venezuela remained in the dark on Wednesday as the second major blackout this month left the streets of Caracas mostly empty and residents wondering how long power would be out amid a deepening economic crisis.

President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist government, which had blamed sabotage by the United States and the opposition for the previous power cut, said an "attack" on its electrical system caused the blackout that first hit on Monday. The outage shuttered businesses, paralysed the country's main oil export terminal, and stranded commuters.

Intermittent service has long affected Venezuela's largely rural interior, but residents of Caracas fear the increasing blackouts in the capital mean that unreliable power is becoming the new normal for them, too.

Maria Garces, a dentist in Caracas, described the situation as 'mummies' waking around, trying to get what they need.

"They are starving us to death because if there is no electricity, then the banks are not operating, there's no internet, there's nothing. In others words, people are walking around like mummies trying to get to where they need to get to without really knowing how. They all go out looking for food but then not be able to buy any because there aren't any jobs. I work, I am coming here to take care of an emergency which I will not be able to tend to - I am a dentist. The people are there with oral pain and nothing can be done for them. People are dying in hospitals," Garces said.

The blackout came amid tensions with the United States over the weekend arrival of Russian military planes, which led Washington to accuse Moscow of "reckless escalation" of the country's political crisis.

The United States believes the planes were carrying "cybersecurity personnel," a US official told Reuters on Tuesday. That would suggest part of their mission could be helping Maduro's loyalists with surveillance and protecting the government's cyber infrastructure.

Russia, which has major energy investments in OPEC member Venezuela, has remained a staunch ally of Maduro, while the United States and most other Western nations have endorsed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Citing the constitution, Guaido in January assumed the interim presidency, saying Maduro's re-election last year was fraudulent. Maduro says Guaido is a US puppet attempting to lead a coup against him and has blamed worsening economic difficulties on sanctions imposed by Washington.

Upon leaving a National Assembly session on Tuesday, individuals threw stones at the vehicle in which Guaido was travelling and tried to open its doors, according to a Reuters witness. Referring to the event on Twitter, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "we condemn the attack on @JGuaido's caravan."

Story highlights

Intermittent service has long affected Venezuela's largely rural interior, but residents of Caracas fear the increasing blackouts in the capital mean that unreliable power is becoming the new normal for them, too.